A local non-governmental organization, the Sherah Young Women Initiative, in partnership with several women advocacy groups is craving support from Liberians to sign unto a petition seeking the amendment of the rape law to impose harsher punishments for perpetrators of rape and other forms of abuse.
The groups’ action comes in the wake of a three-day mass assembly in Monrovia last week by a coalition of local and international non-governmental organizations and private citizens, calling for an end to rape and other forms of Sexual and Gender-based Violence (SGBV) perpetrated against women and children including boys and girls.
The protest which was marred by police brutality against peaceful demonstrators ended with a petition to the Legislature to broaden its oversight over relevant government institutions including the Ministry of Gender, Social and Child Protection, Ministry of Health, the Liberian National Police and the Criminal Courts, among others to end rape and other SGBV related crimes.
However, the Sherah Young Women Initiative and its collaborating partners, in the petition called on the Legislature to enact laws instituting the death penalty and other severe punishments against perpetrators.
“We, the people of Liberia; the mothers, fathers and children of Liberia can take no more this evil against our children and women. We have cried for far too long! We now desire to petition our lawmakers to take action, to sit up, think and make harsher the laws that are concerned with sexual assault on women and children in order to protect them and give them justice,” the groups said.
According to the group, the most important step to be taken in this direction is the strengthening of laws dealing with sexual assaults and putting in place measures to ensure people report rape.
“With this in mind,” it adds, “We, the people of Liberia, sign this petition to our lawmakers for the following amendment to the rape law: That in case a person has sex with (rape) a child who is 13 years and below with or without their consent, the punishment for the rapist should be immediate death penalty or castration plus lifetime imprisonment without bail.”
In the set of proposals, the group said in the case where a person rape a child above 13 years and below 18 years, the perpetrator should be handed the death penalty or be castrated and sentenced for lifetime.
Liberia’s customary practice allows children under 18 years to be given to older men by their parent for marriage. In most cases it is against their will and once married, these children experience lifelong nightmares and suffer from all forms of abuse.
But Sherah Young Women Initiative, along with its partners, in the petition stated that in such an arranged early marriage or relationship involving children above 13, the punishment for the rapist should be life time imprisonment without bail and the parents or guardian who arranged the marriage or encouraged the relationship should be handed a prison term of a minimum one to three years.
The group added that if any parent, organization, community group or traditional leader, owner of hotel, motel and residential or entertainment centers, as well as any other person, who in anyway facilitate the abuse of a child, should be sentenced to one-three years in prison.
For any individual who is proven to have accused anyone falsely or used a child to falsely accused anybody, said person should be sentenced to two years in prison without bail, while those found guilty of gang rape should be punished by immediate castration and 20 years imprisonment without bail,” the group requested.
In addition, they are also calling for the amendment of the rape law to increase the current punishment for perpetrators- man or woman to 30 years in prison without bail.
For any lawyer, judge, or police officer caught demanding money for bribes or fees for prosecuting or investigating rape cases or proven to have recommended the compromise of rape cases should be fined US$5000 or put in prison for three years without bail.
According to the founder of Sherah Young Women Initiative, Mrs. Miatta Sonii-Jarry, the petition is expected to be presented to House Speaker Bhofal Chambers through the House Committee on Claims and Petition on Tuesday 8, 2020.
Mrs. Jarry, speaking to FrontPageAfrica, said the reason behind the recommendations of the harsh punishment stems from the increasing wave of rape cases in recent times.
“We are recommending the harshest punishment as can be because rape have become a pandemic and perpetrators do not fear the existing laws,” she said.
“This is the time we are calling on parents and young people of Liberia to stand up and fight for justice to save our lives from the deadly pandemic call rape and make our women and children feel safe. The dire need of today is to curb this violent crime,”
Liberia currently ranked 177th out of 188 countries in the annual Gender Inequality Index and with over 960 cases of rape and other forms of SGBV reported so far this year, it is poised to see more decline.